Council chiefs report 27% rise in home educated pupils

The number of home educated pupils rose by 27 per cent this year, with many more likely to be “hidden from sight”, council children’s services chiefs have warned.

A survey of local authorities shows about 57,800 pupils were home-schooled in 2018, up from 45,500 last year and 37,500 in 2016. In comparison, between 2017 and 2018, pupil numbers rose by around 66,000, or 0.8 per cent.

The research, released by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, follows a Schools Week investigation which revealed the number of electively home educated pupils almost doubled in six years.

It also comes as a MPs prepare to discuss a bill to give councils more oversight of home educated pupils.

Debbie Barnes, chair of the ADCS educational achievement policy committee, said her team “absolutely recognise that parents have the right to educate their children at home”.

But she expressed concerns about schools using home schooling as a means to illegally exclude children with special educational or behavioural needs. Some parents  alsouse home schooling as a means to avoid attendance fines or as a cover to send their children to illegal schools, she warned.

There are likely to be many more children being home educated who are hidden from sight

“There are likely to be many more children being home educated who are hidden from sight.”

The ACDS releases data on home education every year, but this is the first time the organisation’s survey asked whether pupils were also known to children’s services.

The survey, answered by two thirds of local authorities (106), revealed a third of home educated pupils had previously having some contact with children’s services, and 11 per cent were known to social services.

Meanwhile the majority of councils reported that more than 80 per cent of their home educated pupils had previously attended school.

The report from the ACDS attributed the rise to a growth in the birth rate, more awareness of home education and better records kept by local authorities of home educated pupils.

The government ought to consider the new findings as part of its ongoing review of exclusions led by Ed Timpson, Barnes added.

The report comes as MPs prepare to debate a draft law which would require councils to monitor the “educational development” of children receiving home education through annual assessments. The bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons next Friday.